African Music Encyclopedia


Hugh Masekela


Hugh Masekela, born near Johannesburg in 1939, has covered the globe and played with just about every top star you can think of. Masekela was originally introduced to the trumpet by anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston. The anti-apartheid movement became an important influence in his life, but not as important as the music that ended up taking him around the world many times. In his early days in the South African music scene Masekela played with such names as pianist Dollar Brand (now known as Abdullah Ibrahim), Jonas Gwangwa, and Kippie Moeketsi as teenageers in the Father Huddleston Band. In 1961 Masekela went into exile where Harry Belafonte helped him settle in the U.S. as a student. Hugh landed in New York where he recorded many records including his 1968 number one hit "Grazing in the Grass."

Masekela also played with such luminaries as Miriam Makeba, Zimbabwean Dorothy Masuka, the Jazz Epistles, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Hedzoleh Soundz, Francis Fuster, Dudu Pukwana, and was instrumental in the South African Broadway-style musical King Kong with many of the same people.

Masekela went on to performd with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour and defended Simon vigorously when the tour was seen as a violation of the ANC's cultural boycott. His 1987 hit "Bring Him Back Home" became the anthem for Nelson Mandela's world tour following his release from prison in 1992. Masekela once again lives in South Africa and still tours throughout the world extensively.

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